Taking a position on Ontario’s speed limiter legislation
March 20, 2008
March 20, 2008
As expected, the Ontario government finally tabled legislation that would require all trucks operating in the province to be mechanically limited to 105 km/h. The writing has been on the wall since the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) first introduced the policy back in 2005. Now, it’s appears the proposal will become a reality.
The policy has gained momentum ever since the OTA announced it in 05, and comments from the MTO’s Chris Brant in the current issue of Truck News suggested a formal endorsement from the provincial government was near. “We are not going to wait forever,” Brant told our correspondent, Carroll McCormick. Indeed.
Yesterday the legislation was formally announced by the Ontario Liberals. They hope to have the law on the books by 2009 with an educational enforcement period allowing drivers to come to terms with the new rule.
Between now and then, and undoubtedly for some time after, we’ll be deluged with complaints about the law from drivers and owner/operators who view it as an invasion of their rights and a misguided attempt to level the playing field between small and large carriers (most of which already govern their trucks).
I’ve heard all the arguments for and against speed limiters, and I don’t fully subscribe to either school of thought. The doomsday scenario that the proposed law will create more accidents, force veteran drivers to leave the industry en masse and deter carriers domiciled in other jurisdictions from crossing into Ontario seems far-fetched and unrealistic. Drivers and carriers have overcome more significant hurdles than this. I don’t think Ontario’s proposed speed limiter law is going to mean the end of the industry as we know it.
On the other hand, I think the OTA’s touted fuel economy, environmental and safety benefits are over-stated. For one, governing trucks at 105 will only really affect how trucks are driven on the major highways where traffic usually flows at speeds well above 100 km/h. Driving habits on secondary highways and in urban areas won’t be improved just because a truck is governed at 105. I think that some fleets will achieve fuel savings and, by extension, there will be some corresponding environmental benefits – but not to the extent the OTA and the Ministry are suggesting. As for this rule’s impact on safety, only time will tell.
So now that I’ve ruffled feathers in both camps, it’s time to take a formal position on the issue. In doing so, I must ask the question: Is a speed limiter rule really necessary? And in my opinion, it is not. My daily commute is over 100 km and I spend a lot more time than that travelling Ontario’s highways. Anecdotally, I will tell you that speeding trucks are not a major concern in Ontario. I do encounter them on occasion – and probably will still encounter them on occasion once this legislation becomes law. But to introduced such broad-based legislation to control the speed of a handful of trucks seems like overkill. I would prefer to see incentives offered to carriers and owner/operators that voluntarily activate their governors or adhere to a speed control and fuel management program on their own. (And yes, fuel savings should be incentive enough).
While I don’t agree that Ontario’s speed limiter legislation (if passed) will have widespread repercussions for the industry, I do question whether the intended benefits of the law will ever be achieved. If they are, then I will concede it was a gutsy and worthwhile endeavor on the part of OTA. If not, then I must question whether the time and resources spent on bringing this law to fruition was well-spent. A thorough and impartial analysis of the law’s consequences won’t be available until the rule has been on the books for several years. Until then, let the debate continue.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies